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Nikon Coolpix S5100 Digital Camera Review

A slimline 12 megapixel compact digital camera sporting a 5x zoom lens with vibration reduction.

|  Nikon Coolpix S5100 in Compact Cameras
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ePHOTOzine verdict and ratings

Nikon Coolpix S5100: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at Nikon's Coolpix S5100. A slimline 12 megapixel compact digital camera sporting a 5x zoom lens with vibration reduction.

Sitting near the top of Nikon's 'style' range of compact digital cameras, this compact digital doesn't cost too much at around £150, but includes many popular features to help improve the quality of your snaps.

Nikon Coolpix S5100: Features
At the front and almost centre resides a 5x zoom lens, which covers a range equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera. For a camera of this price range, the lens is well specified, also including optical vibration reduction. A 12.2 megapixel sensor takes care of recording the images, which are saved to either SD or SDHC format memory cards.

The S5100 is quite slim and lightweight for a compact with a 5x zoom range. At only 21.6mm thick, it is thin enough to be slipped into a pocket or handbag, making this camera the perfect size for holiday snaps and nights out on the town.

A nice feature that should improve the quality of shots taken on your travels is tripod detection in the night shot mode. The camera will set the appropriate shutter and ISO automatically, depending on whether you are hand-holding the camera, or using a support.

Video clips can be recorded at up to 720p resolution at a rate of 30 frames per second. There is no HDMI connectivity for those wishing to watch the footage directly from the camera on their high definition television though.

As well as the usual range of detections we have become accustomed to on new compact digital cameras, such as face, blink and smile detection, the S5100 promises to perform quickly, with a fast start up time and responsive handling due to the new Expeed C2 processor, which should also improve the camera's performance at high ISO sensitivities.

Nikon Coolpix S5100 Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
As well as the smart black finish of our review sample, the S5100 is available in a range of colours.   A 2.7inch LCD screen with a resolution of 230,00 dots fills much of the rear.
A 5x zoom lens with vibration reduction has been squeezed into the slimline body.   Power is provided by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, which can be charged via USB or mains power.

Power is provided by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, which charges in camera off either USB or mains power. Although the USB charging option is welcome, it's a shame Nikon have chosen to use a proprietary USB cable. If the cable goes missing, then you'll need another just the same to be able to charge your battery.

Nikon Coolpix S5100: Handling
The slim metallic body has a good quality feel to it and although this camera makes no claims of ruggedness, it feels as though it could take a reasonable amount of wear and tear. The control layout is fairly typical of a compact of this type. The zoom is controlled via a bezel around the shutter button and video recording is activated with the one touch recording button on the rear.

For a small camera, the controls are well enough spaced apart for me to comfortably use, even with my fat fingers. A scene button on the rear provides access to the various automatic scene programs available and the menus are very well laid out and easy to navigate.

The flap covering the battery and memory card is the only weak spot that I can see. Being constructed from thin plastic, it don't look like it would take much to break if treated roughly.

Nikon Coolpix S5100: Performance
For the most part, the Nikon Coolpix S5100 delivers colourful, vibrant images with plenty of detail for producing prints of a reasonable size at a high street lab. Although the camera switches on very quickly, and the scene can be composed almost immediately, there is a pause of a couple of seconds before the camera will allow you to zoom, or take a picture, which I found a little frustrating at times, although this lag is probably about equal to the time many other similarly priced compacts would take to turn on.

Once the camera is warmed up enough to allow picture taking, it is fairly responsive, focusing quickly in a variety of conditions and with little noticeable lag between pressing the shutter button and the picture being taken.

Nikon's matrix metering also copes well in a wide variety of conditions. It is only ever really fooled by backlit subjects, but even then, this camera produces more balanced exposures than most.

Nikon Coolpix S5100 Performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
The S5100's metering has coped well with this contrasty scene.   Colours are vibrant, without looking unnatural.
The vibration reduction system coped well with this dimly lit scene.   Images are sharp, with plenty of detail.

The 720p resolution video files are clear and smooth, with few artefacts visible in the final recording. When using a Lexar Class 10 SDHC card, there is very little delay in writing the footage to the card either.

ISO and noise performance
Images taken at lower ISO settings are clear and show no signs of noise, which is good as many other compacts at this price point start to show noise as soon as you move off the base ISO setting. Although there are no significant signs of noise in images until ISO800, there are signs of the camera's noise reduction system softening details slightly at ISO400, although this is very difficult to see, unless examining images at 100% on a computer screen.

At ISO800 noise starts to become more prominent, especially in the shadows and areas of flat colour. Still the camera's noise reduction system does a decent job of balancing softening of image details with the amount of noise present, which means the camera is very usable at this setting.

Even at ISO1600, the image quality holds up quite well for a compact camera. The camera's noise reduction system reduces colour saturation in images to reduce the effects of coloured noise, leaving images with a fine textured granular look that should still print well.

And finally, at ISO3200 the colour saturation is reduced further and the grain becomes more apparent, but still the camera holds up quite well. Images taken at this setting should certainly be fine for 6x4inch or 7x5inch prints at your local high street lab.

Nikon Coolpix S5100 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200

Nikon Coolpix S5100 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200

The auto white-balance setting on the Coolpix S5100 does a decent job of correcting colour casts enough so that they are not disturbing, but still leaving enough of a colour cast to keep the atmosphere of the lighting. Under incandescent lighting a slight warm cast is left behind and under the warm white fluorescents in our studio a very slight green tinge can be seen. If colour accuracy is paramount under incandescent lighting, then to appropriate preset provides adequate correction. The same can't be said for the florescent preset though, which over compensates for the green making the image in our studio shot look quite pink.

Nikon Coolpix S5100 White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting.   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting.
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting.   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting.

Buffer read/write times
Shot to shot performance with the Coolpix S5100 is pretty good for a camera of this price point. When shooting with a Lexar Class 10 SDHC card, the shot to shot delay is 2.99 seconds on average.

Using the continuous shooting function, I managed to take nine shots in 11.01 seconds, which equals a continuous shooting rate of 1.22 shots per second. The shooting rate isn't constant though, as the delay between each shot is a fraction longer with each extra shot taken.

Lens performance
For the most part the lens fitted to the Coolpix S5100 performs well, rendering sharp images with decent levels of contrast. Occasionally though, images can appear soft at the wide end of the zoom, I think more due to a focusing error than a quality issue with the optics, as some images turn out sharp, other unfortunately do not.

Levels of distortion are well controlled for a compact, displaying mild barrel distortion at the wide end, an a touch of pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. This is fairly typical of zoom lenses, and the levels here shouldn't pose many people too many issues.

Flare and ghosting are well controlled. Even when shooting directly into the sun only a little flare and loss of contrast can be seen, which is excellent performance for a compact in this price bracket.

Nikon Coolpix S5100 Lens quality: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Images can sometimes be a little soft at the wide end of the zoom.   Despite shooting into the sun, there is very little flare in the image.
Things sharpen up by the telephoto end though.   The macro function allows you to get within 2cm of your subject and yields sharp results.

Nikon Coolpix S5100: Verdict
It's very rare that a compact camera of this price level truly impresses. During testing the Nikon Coolpix S5100 proved itself to be easy to use, reasonably responsive and capable of delivering great quality images. In fact I feel the image quality of this camera punches above its weight, equalling that of cameras up to twice the price.

There is the odd weakness here and there, such as the occasional misfocus at the wide end of the zoom, and I can't say I'm a fan of charging the battery via a proprietary Nikon USB cable either. Even with those taken into account, this camera is undeniably good value in my opinion.

A good all-round camera for the casual snapper.
Nikon Coolpix S5100: Pros

Good performance at high sensitivities.
Sharp, colourful images
Slim design
5x zoom with wide angle
Good value for money

Nikon Coolpix S5100: Cons
Occasionally misfocuses at wide end of the zoom
Charging is via a proprietary USB cable, which means you're stuck if you lose it.


Nikon Coolpix S5100: Specification
Price £150.00
What comes in the box Wrist strap, AV-cable, AC adapter, Li-Ion battery, Software, USB cable.
Contact www.nikon.co.uk
Lens 5.0 to 25.0mm (35mm format equivalent to 28-140mm)
Resolution 12.2Mp
Sensor size 1/2.3-in.
Sensor type CCD
Max. Image size 4,000 x 3,000
Aspect ratio 4:3
LCD monitor size 2.7inch
Optical viewfinder No
Focusing system Contrast Detection
Focusing modes Face Detection, Single AF, Subject tracking with lock on.
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO100-3200
Metering system Matrix, Centre, Spot via CCD
Metering modes 18 scene modes (Scene Auto Selector, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Copy, Backlight, Panorama assist)
White-balance Auto. Preset. Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
Continuous shooting 1fps
Anti-shake mode Lens shift vibration reduction
Movie mode HD 720p: 1,280 x 720/30 fps, VGA: 640 x 480/30 fps, QVGA: 320 x 240/30 fps
Media type SD, SDHC
Interface USB 2.0
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL10 (740 mAh), AC Adapter EH-62D
Size (wxdxl) 97.1 x 56.9 x 21.6mm
Weight (with battery) 132g

The Nikon Coolpix S5100 costs £150.

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Photographs taken using the Nikon Nikon Coolpix S5100

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